If you find yourself in Paris this Fall, be sure to swing by City Hall to catch a free retrospective of legendary designer Andrée Putman. At 85 years old, she is the grande dame of French design and the creative genius behind countless products and interiors – think tableware for Christofle, leather goods for Louis Vuitton, the Concorde for Air France, the Fine Arts Museum of Rouen along with a slew of hotels and private residences. Books have been written about her, exhibitions have honoured her, and one German newspaper even went so far as to say she’s “above taste.”
And taste, it seems, runs in the family. Putman grew up in a 12th century abbey in Bourgogne, owned by her grandfather, Edouard Aynard, who was equally famous for his taste – the abbey is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Her grandmother, Madeleine Saint-René Taillandier, was a close friend of Edith Wharton, renowned American novelist and designer, author of The Decoration of Houses.
Growing up in such an environment, Putman’s finely honed eye and flawless taste were quick to develop. She began her professional life as a journalist in the 1950s, writing about interior design for French magazines like Femina, Elle and L’Oeil. She then went on to found her own interior design and furnishings firm, Écart, in the 1970s; and essentially invented the “boutique hotel” with her work on Ian Schrager’s Morgans Hotel in the 1980s. She was even tapped to update the hotel with each subsequent incarnation, one in 1996 and again in 2009 – a whopping 25 years after its initial opening!
We of course applaud her innovative and wildly eclectic approach to bathroom design. At the aforementioned Morgans hotel, her signature black and white tiled bathrooms were left untouched with each renovation – a true testament to her timelessness. She has designed industrial style washbasins for Rapsel (with a subtle nod to Eileen Gray) and quirky bathtubs for Hoesch and Jacob Delafon, featuring an hourglass shape or oversized ball legs. Putman believes the bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the house, “a place where you take time to refocus yourself” and we couldn’t agree more. As far as legends go, this doyenne of design is still totally au courant.
The exhibition runs at Hôtel de Ville from 9th November 2010 through 26th February 2011.
Photographs © Deidi Von Schaewen